Parsing By Chunks

  • Steven P. Abney
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 44)


I begin with an intuition: when I read a sentence, I read it a chunk at a time. For example, the previous sentence breaks up something like this:
  1. (1)

    [I begin] [with an intuition]: [when I read] [a sentence], [I read it] [a chunk] [at a time]

These chunks correspond in some way to prosodic patterns. It appears, for instance, that the strongest stresses in the sentence fall one to a chunk, and pauses are most likely to fall between chunks. Chunks also represent a grammatical watershed of sorts. The typical chunk consists of a single content word surrounded by a constellation of function words, matching a fixed template. A simple context-free grammar is quite adequate to describe the structure of chunks. By contrast, the relationships between chunks are mediated more by lexical selection than by rigid templates. Co-occurrence of chunks is determined not just by their syntactic categories, but is sensitive to the precise words that head them; and the order in which chunks occur is much more flexible than the order of words within chunks.


Noun Phrase Parse Tree Content Word Function Word Garden Path 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven P. Abney
    • 1
  1. 1.Bell Communications ResearchMorristownUSA

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